Mr Knowles found three Spensers in the books of the Merchant Taylors, and concluded that the poorest of them, John Spenser, a "free journeyman" in the "art or mystery of clothmaking," might have been the poet's father, but he afterwards abandoned this theory.Dr Grosart, however, adhered to it, and it is now pretty generally accepted.During his residence at the university the poet acquired a knowledge of Greek, and at a later period offered to impart that language to a friend in Ireland (see Ludowick Bryskett, Discourse of Civil Life, London, 1606, written twenty years previously).Spenser's affinity with Plato is most marked, and he probably read him in the original.EDMUND SPENSER, English poet, author of The Faery Queen, was born in London about the year 1552.The received date of his birth rests on a passage in sonnet lx. He speaks there of having lived forty-one years; the Amoretti was published in 1595, and described on the titlepage as "written not long since"; this would make the year of his birth 1552 or 1553.That most of it was spent in the study of his art we may take for granted.That he lived for a time in the "north parts" of England; that there or elsewhere he fell in love with a lady whom he celebrates under the anagram of "Rosalind," and who was most likely Rose, a daughter of a yeoman named Dyneley, near Clitheroe; that his friend Harvey urged him to return south, and introduced him to Sir Philip Sidney; that Sidney took to him, discussed poetry with him, introduced him at court, put him in the way of preferment - are ascertained facts in his personal history.
Spenser undoubtedly entered the service of the Earl of Leicester either in 1578 or a year earlier (Carew Papers).
But a reader not already interested in Spenser, or not already familiar with the artificial eclogue, would find little to attract him in the Shepherd's Calendar.
The poems need a special education; given this, they are felt to be full of charm and power, a fresh and vivid spring to the splendid summer of the Faery Queen.
Till this discovery it was not known where Spenser received his school education.
The speculations as to the poet's parentage, started by the Nowell MS., are naturally more uncertain.